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"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and
shoot somebody and
I wouldn't lose voters,"

Donald Trump, January 24, 2016

Trump - Personality Cult

Trump's first full Cabinet meeting 12 June 2017 was an exercise in group deference. He started off bragging about his "record-setting pace" in his first few months in office – better than any President, with the possible exception of FDR. After that, each cabinet member began their progress report with the same message: Thank you, Mr. President. High-level government officials lined up to shower the president with praise. Perhaps the strongest words came from chief of staff Reince Priebus: "On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda."

Many likened the footage of cabinet members praising Trump to an episode from his reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Some questioned whether North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s cabinet members acted the same way. The panel assembled on CNN's "The Situation Room" mocked the compliment-heavy meeting. Bianna Golodryga said it was "cringeworthy" and it reminded her of the opposite of why her parents brought her to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. "Their leaders were forced to do that," Golodryga said. "The difference here is, they are not forced to do that, and you could see how uncomfortable the cabinet was in having to dole out these accolades. It was something you don’t do or bestow upon a five-year-old, much less the president of the United States.”

At a televised cabinet meeting 20 December 2017 after passage of the tax bill, Vice-President Mike Pence praised Trump 14 separate times in less than three minutes. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake compiled this list of Pence’s many, many expressions of gratitude:

  1. “Thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country.”
  2. “You described it very well, Mr. President.”
  3. “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage.”
  4. “You’ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.”
  5. “You’ve unleashed American energy.”
  6. “You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records.”
  7. “You promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts, and it would be a ‘middle-class miracle.’ And in just a short period of time, that promise will be fulfilled.”
  8. “I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.”
  9. “Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle-class miracle.”
  10. “You’ve actually got the Congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska] for 40 years.”
  11. “You got the Congress to do, with tax cuts for working families and American businesses, what they haven’t been able to do for 31 years.”
  12. “And you got Congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years, in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare.”
  13. “Mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began and just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.”
  14. “Because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. And we are making America great again.”

But Pence was hardly alone in furiously sacrificing his dignity on the altar of the president’s fragile ego. Tennessee congresswoman Diane Black opted to debase herself with a bit more concision, saying “Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our President.”

Since the start of Donald Trump’s presidential run, one question quietly but urgently permeated the observations of concerned citizens: What is wrong with him? Constrained by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater rule,” which inhibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined, many of those qualified to answer this question have shied away from discussing the issue at all.

The public debate over whether President Trump is mentally unbalanced intensified. Much of the current and past discussion has centered on the possibility of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as speculated in The Atlantic and Vanity Fair and The Guardian.

Dr. Allen Frances, chair of the DSM-IV task force, forcefully argued that Trump did not meet criteria for NPD, because he is not distressed by his behavior: "Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither)."

Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword, for instance, explain Trump’s impulsivity in terms of “unbridled and extreme present hedonism.” Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, notes a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes writes of Trumps sociopathy, and Robert Jay Lifton, on the “malignant normality” that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up. Trump's madness is catching, too. From the trauma people have experienced under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences.

Trump is a narcissist who mixes lies with delusion, slanders freely, and moment to moment must have the spotlight turned on him, even if it means, for example, undercutting his Secretary of State Tillerson and potentially dragging the world into a war in service to his ever-faltering self-esteem.

The media can’t allow anything to take place anywhere without turning it into a story about Donald Trump. many Trump supporters think he’s never made a mistake, or done something they disapprove of. Trump’s self-absorption – his boasting and narcissism – does not elude the notice of his supporters.

A number of scholarly papers and peer-reviewed articles focused on the personality cult that developed around Donald Trump. A paper that appeared in the 2016 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting by Sarah Oates, of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and Wendy W. Moe, of the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, stated that "during the 2016 Presidential primaries, the 'cult of personality' candidate, Trump, won the primary."

A book by University of Dayton distinguished professor of history Larry Schweikart and political commentator and author Joel Pollak - How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution - states that "some conservatives looked forward to Trump’s defeat as a chance to rid the GOP of the insufficiently conservative insurgents who were bringing it to defeat by choosing a candidate who was a mere reality - show Hollywood celebrity, a lifetime liberal who was hijacking their party and their cause with a vain cult of personality."

Ethnologists Jonathan Rosa and Yarimar Bonilla who "although we do not minimize the devastating impact that [Trump] administration's policies will have, or the new president's ominous behavior, we are wary of exceptionalizing the current moment. Our goal is thus to deprovincialize Trump, that is, to locate his election within broader historical, political, and economic assemblages of which it is but one part. ... This effort might include [studying] Trump's xenophobia, bombast, and cult of personality, reminiscent of leaders in South Africa, Gambia, Uganda, Libya, and Zimbabwe."

A video surfaced 07 October 2016 in which Trump made indecent remarks about groping and making sexual advances on women. Trump was married to his present wife Melania at the time of his conversation with an entertainment reporter. “I did try and fuck her... “I moved on her very heavily. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.... “I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything.” Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party, said of Trump's comments, "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner, ever." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance... I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere."

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, once the lead Republican lawyer on the Senate committee investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater scandal, told Eli Lake at Bloomberg 03 October 2016 that his decision to support Clinton over Donald Trump came down to Trump’s inability to control his impulses. . “Not only did he seem at the debate to lose his temper, but to get up at 3:30 a.m. and reach for your smartphone is to me a hysterical reaction. If you’re president, the button you reach for is not the Twitter button; it’s the nuclear button.”

Presddent Barack Obama said 02 August 2016 "... the fact that he does not appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, the Middle East, in Asia. ... means that he is woefully unprepared.... This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily, and weekly, ... there has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn't have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world. Because a lot of people depend on the White House getting stuff right. And this is different than just having policy disagreements."

Former CIA Director Michael J. Morell wrote August 5, 2016 of Donald Trump: " the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief. These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law. The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security."

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) on 03 August 2016 called on medical professionals to “demand a mental fitness test” for Trump. “Donald Trump is dangerous for our country,” Bass wrote in a Change.org petition. “His impulsiveness and lack of control over his own emotions are of concern. It is our patriotic duty to raise the question of his mental stability to be the commander in chief and leader of the free world.”

[Robert Kagan wrote "... there really is something wrong with the man. It is not just that he is incapable of empathy. It is not just that he feels he must respond to every criticism he receives by attacking and denigrating the critic, no matter how small or inconsequential the criticism. If you are a Republican, the real problem, and the thing that ought to keep you up nights as we head into the final 100 days of this campaign, is that the man cannot control himself. He cannot hold back even when it is manifestly in his interest to do so. What’s more, his psychological pathologies are ultimately self-destructive."

Eugene Robinson wrote "I am increasingly convinced that he’s just plain crazy... Leave aside for the moment Trump’s policies, which in my opinion range from the unconstitutional to the un-American to the potentially catastrophic. At this point, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that Trump’s grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best. Begin with the fact that he lies the way other people breathe. Telling a self-serving lie — no matter how transparent, no matter how easily disproved — seems to be a reflex for him."

Glenn Kessler wrote " Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries. But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false."

Greg Sargent wrote "Trump’s pathologically abusive tendencies, his hair-trigger overreaction to criticism and slights both real and imagined, and his mental habit of sorting the world into the strong and the weak — the dominant and the submissive — render him temperamentally unfit for the presidency. He lacks basic knowledge of the world and doesn’t appear burdened by any curiosity about the complexities of foreign affairs or domestic policy. He is at worst a genuine bigot and at best a charlatan who has actively sought to stoke reactionary hostility to culturally and demographically evolving America. He is indifferent to the inner workings of the American system and instead promises authoritarian glory."

An August 2016 Bloomberg Politics poll found 56 percent of those surveyed believe that Clinton does have the right temperament, while only 31 percent said the same of Trump. There were similar results in a Monmouth University Poll in which 27 percent of those surveyed said Trump had the right temperament, while 67 percent said no. In the same poll, 61 percent said they believed Clinton did have the right temperament while 34 percent said she did not.

On 18 August 2017 U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution that urges the Vice President and Cabinet to have the President examined by medical and psychiatric professionals to assist them in determining whether the President is unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution outlines this obligation. As the resolution reads, “President Donald J. Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties.

“Many Americans, including many Republicans, have observed the President's increasingly disturbing pattern of actions and public statements that suggest he may be mentally unfit to execute the duties required of him,” said Lofgren. “The President has not released a serious medical evaluation. Just as would be the case if the President were physically unable to execute the office of the President, this resolution urges those entrusted with the responsibility enshrined in the 25th Amendment to employ the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to help in their determination whether the President is mentally capable of carrying out his Constitutional responsibilities.”

Lofgren’s resolution urges the Vice President and Cabinet to “quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to examine the President… to determine whether the President suffers from mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his constitutional duties.”

Trump’s announcement 01 March 2018 that his administration would be imposing massive tariffs on steel and aluminum came as a complete surprise to his advisers. At least that’s according to NBC News, which reported that an enraged, “unglued” Trump decided to fast-track his long-promised plans to engage in a trade war much to the surprise of just about everyone in his inner circle. NBC reported "According to two officials, Trump’s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team. On Wednesday evening, the president became “unglued,” in the words of one official familiar with the president’s state of mind."

Aides said the president's consuming anger at Mueller was making him erratic, even unglued. Spoiling for a fight, any fight, the president decided to pick one on trade. The angry and impulsive Trump was reportedly egged on to start a trade war by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade director Peter Navarro.

According to the anonymous sources cited by the NBC report, the congressional testimony and subsequent resignation of Hope Hicks, the lackluster performance of Jeff Sessions, and mounting pressure against Jared Kushner had all weighed heavily on Trump. As a result, Trump “was angry and gunning for a fight” and went into battle mode: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win," he wrote on Twitter. Trump's policy was announced without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff. No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced.

China's largely ceremonial parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial change to the country's constitution, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely. Before the vote in Beijing, Donald Trump had joked that Xi was “now president for life..... President for life. No, he's great". Trump said "And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday." It's not totally clear whether Trump was half-joking or not. Trump's speech was behind closed doors. Trump tended to heap praise on authoritarian dictators - Putin, Erdogan, Sissi, Duterte. This joke fit the systematic pattern of the president’s authoritarian instincts and impulses.

FDR was first inaugurated aged 51 years, 33 days old, on March 4, 1933. He was elected four times, which should equal 16 years in office. But he died on April 12, 1945, at the age of 63. It wasn't too far removed from his fourth inaugural address. He served as President for 12 years and 39 days. Trump was the oldest man to ever to take office, at age 70. Within two years of FDR's death, Congress had passed the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, largely responding to Roosevelt's death, which made it impossible for any person to be elected to the office more than twice.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 21:50:56 ZULU